The Main Character is… You

Both the Dream of the Arab and Kubla Kahn produce a visions of great men, powerful and wise, saving “books” from the deluge or building fantastic pleasure domes. We often look to great men today to do the same, in a modern sense. Great men are supposed to save the world from what is coming – whatever doom and destruction happens next, whether war, natural disaster, economic crisis, or even the Apocalypse itself. What we fail to do, however, is remember that a single great man cannot undo the actions of so many lesser men. The Arab could ride his horse as fast as possible to get away from the flood, but he could not stop it from coming. Kubla Kahn built a magnificent dome, but could not stop it from crashing into the sea, nor could he stop the voices of his ancestors prophesying a coming war.

The cycle of the Apocalypse is not the doing of one man, but the fault of all. Every person, be it Kubla Khan, a noble Arab in a dream (or perhaps he resembles Don Quixote), the dreamer, a peasant helping Wordsworth find his way in the Alps, Wordsworth himself, you, me, or anyone else, plays a role in the past, present and future. We are all “Characters of the great apocalypse”, acting as “one mind”, creating tumult and peace, darkness and light, beginnings, middles, and ends. These visions draw our attention to the impact a great character can have, and to the devastating effects an apocalypse would have on them. We forget, however, that we will ALL experience the Apocalypse when it comes, regardless of our individual contribution. While our attention may be on the Arab or Kubla Kahn, it is in fact our own actions, good or bad, that build up and will eventually be responsible for the Apocalypse’ coming.


~ by mjaka10 on September 12, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Main Character is… You”

  1. I was going to make a similar post, but I don’t think it would be unique enough, so I’m going to add my thoughts on to yours, instead.

    Along with the line “Characters of the great apocalypse,” I think we should also focus on where Wordsworth writes, “Were all like the workings of one mind, the features / Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree.” It took me a few reads, but I think I finally understand his metaphor here: All people in the world, combined with nature, make up what is the “face” of the world, or its physical existence.

    I believe this to be an important distinction because I consider the Apocalypse to be something very metaphysical. As Wordsworth says, “tumult and peace” – the Apocalypse is more an idea than physical destruction. This manifestation of this metaphysical idea is drawn out by the overarching span of nature.

    I realize this may sound just as confusing as Wordsworth’s poetry, so I’m going to try and make my point more concise. The Apocalypse exists outside the physical world, but will always exist as long as there is a physical world. It exists within all parts of the physical world. But without combining all these parts, we will never have the true Apocalypse – a character in a book is not the book itself, for instance. In one person we may find peace, tumult in another; only when these metaphysical aspects from ever piece, symbol, character, etc is combined is when we can see the Apocalypse in its truest form.

  2. I was intrigued by your view of the actions of Kubla and the Arab. Do you think that their actions prove futile? Or is there some redemptive hope in them? It is interesting to consider that the Arab is portrayed as similar to Don Quixote, the quintessential idealist in a corrupt world. Do you think this is a commentary on the Arab’s efforts to save the books from the impending flood?

  3. In a sense, yes, the actions of Kubla and the Arab are futile. One person cannot be held responsible for the actions of an entire people, and the ultimate end will be the same (regardless of the actions of the Arab to save the texts he carries, the world will still perish in the flood). However, there is also hope in the sense that while the actions of one cannot prevent such an apocalypse, they can help preserve what we value, in the present and futures near and distant. Therein lies a parallel between Don Quixote’s idealism and the Arabs mission to save the books – both worked to preserve what they saw as valuable, regardless of the outcome of their actions in relation to the world.

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